The Christmas feasting is now over. You ate the last cookie. Turkey sandwiches slathered in mayonnaise are gastric memories.
You're wearing baggy sweat pants because they're the most comfortable and roomy things you own.
You swear you're never going to eat again.
You make the New Year's resolution to eat only nutritious and healthy foods in 2013.
But how do you start?
What do you need to know?
Bill Scepansky of Smart Partner Solutions sums it up by telling us to "Eat the Rainbow."
"The more colorful you make your plate, the more nutritious it is," he says.
Translated, that means, eat more fruits and vegetables.
"That's where we get our vitamins and minerals. They provide energy and they're delicious."
As he talks to a group of interested guests at a Penn State Extension Healthier Picks program hosted by Strong Women/West End Change Club held at Western Pocono Community Library, Bill is busy peeling, chopping and preparing five dishes that will be offered at the end of the program for tasting.
Scepansky is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He's worked in upscale hotels, restaurants and institutions. He entered the produce world in 2002 when he became a corporate chef for two very well known produce companies, developing an appreciation of the virtues of fresh fruits and vegetables in recipes and on menus.
You might have seen him on TV or heard him on the radio, or at demonstrations at "The Book and Cook," or the Pennsylvania Farm Show or one of many other events. He was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to create recipes for various state programs.
He has been featured on WGAL's "Going Green in the Kitchen" series. He writes his own feature column in the Lancaster County magazine called "Bill of Fare." He's a regular guest on Blue Ridge Cable Network's popular TV show, "Cooking for Class" and has a monthly segment on Blue Ridge's "One Day Getaways."
With Smart Partner Solutions, he helps customers, whether schools, restaurants or supermarkets, to better understand the benefits of incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into our everyday food intake.
Vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. They are low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. Eating vegetables can help reduce the risk of stroke and coronary artery diseases; diabetes; certain cancers; weight gain; strong bones.
Fruits are fantastic. They are one of nature's perfect foods. They are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories, a good source of fiber, none contain cholesterol and are a source of many nutrients. A diet rich in fruit as part of it reduces the risk of stroke and coronary heart diseases; certain cancers; weight gain. Eat 1 -2 cups of fruit a day.
Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
A guideline to what you should eat on a daily 2,000 calorie diet includes: Grains-6 oz.; Dairy-3 cups; Vegetables-2.5 cups; Fruit-2 cups; Protein-5.5 oz.
Here are some healthy food and kitchen tips Scepansky offered as he prepared Cous Cous "Tabouleh" Salad, Santa Fe Salad, Ataulfo Mango Salsa, Butternut Bisque and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.
*White fruits provide potassium
*Orange foods provide vitamin C
*Red things are good for the heart. (If you peel an apple, you lose nutrients.)
*Green foods have lots of vitamins, the darker the better. Sneak spinach in with iceberg lettuce in a salad.
*Purple foods have antioxidants, blood cleansers, which help improve memory and fight against memory loss.
*Whole grains -if you're going to snack on something, eat whole grain Scoops with salsa.
*Try new fruits and vegetables. We think we have to have recipes to try a new food. Try it as is and get to know it. This is the way to learn a new food.
*Dry beans - economically wise and beans and legumes are important to incorporate in your diet.
*Corn - take frozen corn and put it in the oven or dry fry it to bring out more flavor.
*Cumin - the spice that's generally found in Mexican dishes adds so much flavor to any dish.
*Spatula - the most important tool in the kitchen
*Don't chop herbs, slice. If you leave things big, bigger taste.
*Any time you can look at a dish and see all natural ingredients, you know it's healthier.
*Any time you cook a low salt, low acid food, it's important for it to cool down fast so spread it out.
*To clean your cutting board, use bleach
*When shopping for mangoes, keep in mind that a ripe one is more red than green and squeeze it…smell it. If you can't smell it, it won't have a lot of flavor. Yes, you can eat the skin. Does it chew like leather? Yes!
*You can mix fruits and vegetables together in a dish. We're the only country who doesn't mix them.
*Do you cry when chopping an onion? Use a sharp knife and there's less crying. When you chop an onion, you release more antioxidants and that means more crying.
*Olive oil - the darker, the better for you.
*Kosher salt - more body and a little less processed.
*Eat feta cheese... less fat.
*Never chop mint. Slice it.
After enticing everyone with the chopping of beautifully colored vegetables and fruits, cooking it right before their eyes, everyone was served. Appreciative sighs were heard throughout the room along with snippets of "This is soooo good!" "I can't believe how a little fresh mint makes this salad so delicious!" "I would definitely make this at home."
Chuck and Barbara Glazier of Gilbert agreed that everything was "very good" but Barbara's favorite was the Cops Cops "Tabouleh" Salad, Chuck's was the Ataulfo Mango Salsa.
Ron Stout of Lehighton thought the whole program was great and loved the salsa. He and his wife, who is a Strong Women member, have been trying to eat healthier and were very pleased to add new recipes to their dinner choices.
If you would like to learn more about Smart Partner Solutions, log on to www. smart partner.biz or call 717-327-7878.
If you would like to learn more about the Strong Women fitness and nutrition program for women, contact: http://extension.psu.edu/monroe, or call (610) 681-6315 or email Carmela Heard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May these recipes inspire you to try making healthier choices this new year.
Cous Cous "Tabouleh" Salad
5 cups cous cous, instant, whole wheat, tri-color if possible
6 cups chicken broth, boiling
2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
1 cup tomato, ripe, diced
1 cup parsley, fresh, chopped
cup mint, fresh, chopped
1 cup almonds, slices, toasted
cup olive oil, extra virgin
cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
cup kalamata olives, pitted, sliced (optional)
2 tsp. cumin, ground
To prepare the cous cous, simply place the dry cous cous into a large mixing bowl. Pour the boiling chicken broth over the cous cous an stir gently. Quickly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the cous cous to bloom, or soak up the broth, for 10 minutes.
Uncover the bowl and pour out onto a few baking sheets to cool quickly. (If you want to serve hot, simply omit this step, mix in butter or tomato sauce and cheese and serve hot.) Once cool, place the cous cous back into the bowl and toss in the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to marry. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed with additional salt, pepper and cumin, if desired. Mix well. A carving fork works great for working out any lumps.
Santa Fe Salad
This easy to prepare, colorful and zesty salad combines two very important components to a healthier dish; whole grains and legumes. Make your own salsa and it's even healthier. Enjoy next to a grilled chicken breast or wrap in your favorite flavored tortilla for a satisfying vegetarian wrap.
6 oz. brown rice, cooked, see package recipe
6 oz. black beans, drained, rinsed
1 oz. juice of fresh lime
oz. cilantro leaves, chopped
tsp. fresh chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
4 oz. prepared salsa
4 tsp. vegetable oil
4 oz. frozen corn, thawed
1 oz. red onion, diced
Prepare rice according to package instructions. Whisk together lime juice, cilantro, jalapenos, chili powder, salt and salsa for dressing. Whisk in oil until well-blended. Combine rice, beans, corn, onion and dressing and toss evenly to coat.
Ataulfo, Mango Salsa
1 pineapple, peeled and cubed
2 Ataulfo mangoes, ripe, peeled, pitted, diced small (the Ataulfo mangoes are yellow)
2 mangoes, ripe, peeled, pitted, diced small
cup onion, diced small
cup red pepper, seeded, diced small
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional)
1 juice of fresh lime
cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
To taste, kosher or sea salt
Toss all ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl and allow for the flavors to marry for one hour. Refrigerate and serve chilled, or to store for future use. Use within three days for best flavors
4 cups butternut squash or neck pumpkin
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, slivered
1 qt. chicken, vegetable, beef or veal broth
tsp. ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve squash, scoop out seeds and place cut side down in a pan large enough to hold the squash. Add inch of water to pan, rub skin with olive oil and roast at 350 degrees till flesh of squash is tender. Cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and set it aside. In a heavy bottomed pot, over low heat, in the olive oil, slowly sweat the onion and garlic till soft and translucent. Add the spices. Add thyme and squash and cook for a few minutes over low heat to marry flavors and caramelize slightly. Add in chicken stock, honey and carefully bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often so as to not burn. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, purée soup. Or if using a blender or food processor, purée in small batches, till smooth. Once all of the soup is pureed, pour the contents back into the pot, return to the heat and add the cream. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and more spice if needed. Garnish with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, flavor with the same spices as listed in recipe and toasted pepitas or unsalted, hulled pumpkin seeds.